With its election of Simon Bridges, the National Party has turned the page on the previous Government. Though Bridges was one of the Government's high-ranking ministers he made it clear he believes the party needs to offer the electorate something new if it is to win in 2020.

Had most of his colleagues disagreed with him they would have chosen Steven Joyce or perhaps Amy Adams. It took them at least two ballots before one of the four candidates received a majority of the large caucus, so the decision between continuity and change cannot have been easy.

Bridges gives National a leader only a few years older than Jacinda Ardern. It is a long time since both major parties were led by such youthful personalities. The stage is set for an interesting contest to see which of them can better appeal to both young and older voters.

Bridges has a young family, his third child born as recently as December, so he may hope to compete in the baby stakes too. But, initially at least, the Prime Minister expecting her first child will command most attention in that regard.


The fact that the family life of a leader is of such interest is a reflection of the health of the economy and general contentment with the new Government so far. For as long as these last, National's new leader is going to be having an uphill battle.

Labour has moved ahead of National in a poll taken as Bill English stepped down and the next polls might not have National as high as it has been since losing power. Bridges will be prepared for the initial verdicts on his leadership to be disappointing.

While he is a new to the leadership he is not new to the voters in the way that Ardern was. They have both been in Parliament since 2008 but he has had the exposure all ministers receive while she was an Opposition MP largely unseen until last year.

With the portfolios of energy and transport, Bridges was a forceful minister, making few compromises with the environment in his quest for new oil fields and ever keen to be photographed turning the sod on new roading projects. He says the environment will feature more prominently in the new face of National.

His first task is to allocate speaking roles to his rivals, or at least to Adams and Judith Collins. He indicated early in his leadership bid that Joyce might not figure in his plans for the party's renewal. It is hard to see where Adams fits in since Paula Bennett remains deputy leader and Collins may be the best choice for finance.

Her background as a tax lawyer would let her speak with some authority on the subject and her aggression could be given full rein over the wide field of issues finance embraces.
Collins undoubtedly would have been the choice of National voters if they had decided the leadership and she will bide her time again, ready for the day the party might need her brand of politics.

That would be a day facing or following an election defeat. Turning the page, Bridges will need to ensure voters do not forget the legacy of the Key-English Government if National is to go to the next election with a fighting chance.